Alex Ito at the Asano Taiko studio in Torrance. Ito will be performing in the Torrance Sister City Festival this Saturday. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor

TORRANCE — “When I’m on stage, I’m just trying to think about giving my all to the performance,” says Alex Ito, taiko drummer, who will be performing this Saturday at the Torrance Sister City Association Friendship Festival at the Armstrong Theatre.

The festival is the highlight of a celebration of the 50-year relationship between Torrance and Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture. Since 1973, the cities of Torrance and Kashiwa have worked together and built relationships. At a Sayonara Banquet on Sunday, mayors from both cities will re-enact the signing for the sister-city affiliation.

“The Friendship Festival has a variety of performances featuring past exchange students from both Torrance and Kashiwa,” said Donna Dunlap, TSCA president. “We are thrilled to showcase the many talents of our alumni. The program offers a variety of vocal music, featuring an operatic duet performed by a 2019 Torrance delegate and a 1980 Kashiwa delegate. A special treat is updated taiko compositions composed and performed by a 2015 Torrance student.

“A master rakugo artist, a 1993 Kashiwa student, is performing traditional Japanese comic story telling rarely performed in the United States. TSCA is honored to introduce Americans to these rare art forms performed in English at the Armstrong Theater.”  

Above and below: Scenes from Alex Ito’s visit to Japan in 2015 with the Torrance delegation.

Ito, 22, was a student ambassador with the 2015 TSCA delegation. He started playing taiko at West High and continued in college, performing at UC Riverside with the collegiate group Senryu Taiko.

“The sister-city experience confirmed my love for Japan, the lifestyle out there,” Ito said. “Being able to live with a host family and being able to experience a different way of living, how in many ways it’s very similar and in many ways it’s kind of different.”

Ito performs taiko with his group, Konokotodake, which translates as “only about this.”

“I chose it because I liked the repetitiveness of it. What’s important about Konokotodake is living in the moment,” he said. “I really wanted it to represent the feeling of being on stage and being in the moment.”

Speaking at the Asano Taiko studio, Ito said he was the kind of kid who would wear out CDs by playing them too often.

He explained that the type of taiko he performs is experimental, or what he has called a “new school” of the Japanese art. He cited among his influences the work of Kris Bergstrom, a former teacher at Asano known for his innovative slant-style choreography.

“A lot of times I like to think of taiko as this really cool mixture of movement, dance, martial arts and music. It combines all these different things. So the dance aspect I take a lot of inspiration from Kris,” Ito said.

In this way, the festival will highlight both tradition and the ways that art can evolve and change, much as the relationship between Torrance and Kashiwa continues to grow and flourish.

“It’s a lot of very modern, almost hip-hop rock style beats infused into taiko,” Ito explained. “I’ve delved into electronic music production as well, done some recording and tried layering electronic, synthesized sound, some sampling — stuff like that.”

For information on the Torrance Sister City Association, visit:  

For more information on Alex Ito:



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *